Obituary: Henry Maxwell Norman, landscape architect

Henry 'Max' Norman: Talented landscape architect who had a passion for the outdoors
Henry 'Max' Norman: Talented landscape architect who had a passion for the outdoors
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Born: 8 August, 1973. Died: 31 January, 2015, at Torridon, Wester Ross, aged 41

On a day of heavy snowfall in the north-west Highlands, an avalanche swept an experienced, expert climber and mountaineer to his death.

Max Norman, an award-winning landscape architect and father of three, died on 31 January at Torridon, Wester Ross, before rescuers could reach him. He was 41. His companion survived.

The two men were reported missing by their wives when they failed to check into their hostel after climbing Coireag Dub Mor. Rescue teams and Stornoway coast guard helicopter conducted a search that night but were forced to call off and were out again early next morning.

Max’s companion, who managed to walk out, alerted the teams to the exact position thanks to the meticulous emergency contingency planning they had in place.

The Norman family moved to Fintry, West Stirlingshire when Max was four years old.

After Fintry Primary and Balfron High School, Max progressed to Edinburgh College of Art/Heriot Watt University, gaining a first-class honours degree in landscape architecture, a field which neatly encompassed his passion for the outdoors and acknowledged his undoubted artistic eye and talent.

One of his tutors, Eelko Hooftman, described him as an “exceptional student, a one-off”. As a mark of respect Edinburgh University flew flags at half-mast on 10 February – the day of the private funeral at Inverness Crematorium.

Max’s postgraduate work took him around the world to Hong Kong, Sweden and the Netherlands and in the UK for practices including Gross Max, Land Use Consultants and Gustafson Porter, where he was an associate.

He was part of the original design team for the Diana Princess of Wales Memorial Fountain in London’s Hyde Park, and project landscape architect for the Garden of Forgiveness in Beirut.

It was at Gustafson Porter where he met his wife, Charlotte Martin. Much to their later amusement, they initially clashed, before discovering a passion and admiration for each other based on a shared love of architecture, landscape, music and adventuring.

They married in 2005, and in 2006 moved to Suffolk and set up their own practice, AREA landscape architects.

The practice has steadily gained in reputation, carving itself a niche of design excellence with a pragmatic and personal touch.

Current and recent projects include landscape design for The Livity School for severely autistic children (a 2014 Civic Trust Award winner), a new children’s hospice for Noah’s Ark in North London, and design to improve the setting of a 18th-century Town Hall and square in an historic market town in Northamptonshire. Since 2007 AREA have been working for Genesis Housing with a team led by architects Pollard Thomas Edwards on a major city centre redevelopment in Chelmsford, Essex, with design responsibility for streets, squares, gardens and terraces throughout the new city quarter.

Other close collaborators and clients have included architects Arup Associates, AHMM, LEEP, Haverstock, Land Securities, Hill Partnerships, a number of local authorities and occasional private clients who had a special project which caught their imagination.

Charlotte and colleagues are working hard to ensure continuity of the very high standards that clients have come to expect.

Before their wedding Max and Charlotte completed the Three Peaks Challenge – climbing the highest mountains in Scotland, England and Wales in 24 hours.

On a visit to Fintry last Christmas the couple nipped up and down a snowy Schiehallion in an afternoon.

Their shared passion for the outdoors and their other interests provided a rich backdrop to a growing family and thriving business.

In his profession Max was rightly recognised as world-class and exceptionally talented. He was a devoted husband and father, a man who cared for his many friends and his community, with a passion for life and for his adopted beloved Highlands. He will be greatly missed.

The shock and sudden catastrophic loss has devastated his family, who have asked for peace and space to mourn.

Charlotte has said, however, that if anybody would like to make a donation in Max’s name to the Torridon and Kinlochewe Mountain Rescue Service or the John Muir Trust, she knows Max would have approved.